Week 3 of the preseason — “dress rehearsal week” — is over, which means it’s once again time to analyze the tape. Since most fantasy-relevant players played limited snaps against vanilla defenses, it’s important to avoid overreacting to good or bad performances. But if you watch the film closely, preseason play can raise red flags for certain players while lowering red flags for others. Here’s my take on who stood out, who slipped up, and who has sleeper potential.
These are mid-to-high draft picks who looked good this week. Most of them didn’t have huge stats since they had limited playing time, but they all showed something that should make you take notice.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Fournette looked good in two quarters against the Falcons, carrying the ball 10 times for 57 yards and a touchdown, while also catching all three of his targets for 18 yards. His best play was an outstanding 21-yard TD run. As he was heading for the edge, he ran through a good cutback lane but ended up being surrounded by eight defenders. Nevertheless, he cut to the inside again, broke Keanu Neal’s arm tackle, and got into the open field for the score. The play looked dead on two separate occasions, but Fournette’s vision and agility allowed him to break loose. The other noteworthy occurrence in this game was Fournette’s involvement on passing downs. Jacksonville’s coaching staff clearly made it a point to get him the ball through the air, and the results were good, as two of his three catches resulted in third-down conversions. With an improved offensive line and a run-heavy offense, Fournette looks primed for another big year. He’s a good pick in the back half of the first round.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Hill played just over two quarters against the Bears, and he was very productive, catching all eight of his targets for 88 yards. The most notable thing about his performance was how he gained those yards. While he showed off his deep speed in Week 2, he did most of his damage underneath this week. On Kansas City’s first offensive play, Hill ran through the backfield and caught a flip pass from Patrick Mahomes, using his speed to gain 23 yards. Later in the game, he had a 16-yard gain on a comeback and a 13-yard gain on a slant because the cornerbacks were giving him a ton of cushion, fearful that he would go deep. Even when Hill isn’t running go routes, the threat that he might is keeping defenses honest, and that’s giving him a lot of room to operate in the short and intermediate passing games. He has also been Mahomes’ most targeted player this preseason (catching all 14 of his targets), so the quarterback change doesn’t seem to be hurting him. With the physical tools to beat defenders anywhere on the field, Hill is in a good position to produce low-end WR1 numbers again.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
Sanders played well in two quarters against the Redskins, catching four passes for 61 yards, while also receiving one carry for a 27-yard touchdown. That touchdown run occurred on an end around: fullback Andy Janovich performed a great cut block on D.J. Swearinger, while Sanders himself broke a tackle attempt by safety Troy Apke, which allowed him to score. It was an exciting play, but it wasn’t even Sanders’ best of the night. His best play was a 33-yard grab, where he beat cornerback Fabian Moreau on an out-and-up route and dove for the ball. He did an excellent job securing the catch (the ball was a little too far in front of him), while also maintaining possession as he hit the ground. Sanders looks to be in midseason form, although his disappointing 2017 season seems to be depressing his ADP. At this point, he looks like a good bet to return to WR2 status, making him a good value at his current price.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
After a rough Week 2 showing, Luck bounced back with a solid effort against the 49ers. In just under two quarters, he completed 8 of 10 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, while also scrambling four times for 27 yards. The biggest thing to note is that he looked good under pressure, getting the ball out quickly when he could, but also extending plays with his legs when he had to. The best illustration of this occurred on third-and-13: defensive end Arik Armstead immediately penetrated the line and nearly sacked Luck, but Luck escaped to the right, then found running room in the middle of the field and picked up 15 yards. On the next play, he threw a perfectly timed pass to Eric Ebron up the seam for a 15-yard TD. Luck also converted third downs to both T.Y. Hilton and Chester Rogers, and he converted a fourth down to tight end Darrell Daniels (who was lined up as a fullback). He still didn’t throw downfield as much as I’d like, but it’s clear that his accuracy and mobility are as good as ever. If you’re looking outside the top-five QBs, Luck provides more upside than basically anyone else.